No one should ever go through a crisis alone….
The secret of quality of life in East Texas is becoming more known to the rest of the country and with it comes issues that were not as prevalent in this region just a few decades ago. The presence of Interstate 20 bisecting East Texas has also brought forth major issues related to Human Trafficking, Sexual Assault, and Violence. In Smith County, the most populated of East Texas Counties, approximately 5,680 major crimes were committed in 2018 according to the Texas Department of Public Safety Texas Crime Report (TCR). These crimes included murder, sexual assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft. On average, only 1,456 resulted in arrest. The average number of victims affected in each of these cases is three (3), including children.
Based on this average, approximately 17,000 citizens of Smith County were left to deal with the after effects of victimization. While we have come a long way in research, there is a significant gap between funding and the demand for services to meet the needs of our victims. Primary and secondary victims are often left alone, isolated, and without the physical and emotional support needed to mitigate through the long-lasting effects of devastating and traumatic events. This can result in feelings of helplessness and isolation. Victims can become overwhelmed and avoid dealing with the investigation and prosecution phases of the criminal justice system. As victims courageously step forward to seek services from within our community, we must be ready to meet their needs.
According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), “…when offered coordinated early, victim-focused interventions, victims are more likely to participate in court proceedings, access community-based advocacy programs, and report decreases in distress, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, depression, and fear.”
Hand Up Network is able to provide Smith County and other East Texas Counties a specialized Victim Services Team (VST) that assists and enables victims of crime and their families. These teams are available from the initial report of violence throughout their recovery and healing process. The team is comprised of dedicated victim service advocates credentialed through the Attorney General of Texas Victim Services Division. Additionally, the Victim Services Team maintains continuing education for advocacy through the Office for Victims of Crime and the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation to ensure standards of victim services are in alignment with the most up to date research-based methods. The team ensures that all contact with victims is trauma informed and victim focused. They stand ready to collaborate with government and community-based organizations to ensure survivors and their families receive the services desired to heal and adapt to their new normal.